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Donald Trump kicked off his presidency in familiar fashion: Getting rattled by the size of the Women's March on Washington, tearing into the media for pointing out that the crowds at his inauguration were smaller than those at Barack Obama's and implausibly claiming he had drawn up to "a million-and-a-half" spectators for his swearing-in.

He also claimed that he has not been feuding with America's intelligence agencies, despite having publicly compared them to the Nazis less than two weeks ago.

During his campaign, Mr. Trump become known for his hair-trigger temper, as well as playing fast-and-loose with the truth – frequently exaggerating and at times making demonstrably false statements.

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And he served notice over his first weekend in office that neither tendency is going away.

Kellyanne Conway, one of Mr. Trump's counselors, even coined a new term for the falsehoods emanating from the new administration, dubbing them "alternative facts."

On Sunday morning, Mr. Trump took aim at the Women's March, which appeared to have drawn larger crowds to the National Mall on Saturday than his inauguration did 24 hours earlier.

"Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn't these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly," Mr. Trump tweeted early Sunday, referencing Madonna, Ashley Judd and America Ferrera, who all addressed the rally.

As the March unfolded the previous day, Mr. Trump was at CIA headquarters in a Washington suburb. Standing in front of a memorial wall to dead CIA officers at the agency's headquarters, Mr. Trump told the assembled agents that reporters are "among the most dishonest human beings on Earth."

"I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I say: 'Wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was, it looked like a million, a million-and-a-half people,'" he said. "They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there."

A pair of aerial photographs, widely circulated on Twitter and news websites, showed much larger gaps in Mr. Trump's crowd, particularly near the back, than in the crowd for Mr. Obama's first inauguration in 2009.

Numbers from Washington's public transit system also noted that, as of 11 am on Inauguration Day, it counted 193,000 trips – fewer than for either of Mr. Obama's inaugurations (513,000 in 2009 and 317,000 in 2013), George W. Bush's second inauguration in 2005 (197,000), or the Women's March (250,000.) Mr. Obama's first inauguration drew an estimated 1.8 million people to the National Mall, making Mr. Trump's claim of up to 1.5 million for his own event unlikely.

Mr. Trump was also irate about coverage of his public battle with intelligence officials probing Russian interference in the election that carried him to office.

"They sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you're the number one stop is exactly the opposite," he said.

The President's fight with intelligence agencies has been public and well-documented. Earlier this month, after Buzzfeed published a report by a former British agent alleging ties between Mr. Trump's camp and Russian President Vladimir Putin's government, Mr. Trump accused American intelligence officials of leaking it: "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" he tweeted.

Recently-departed CIA director John Brennan said Mr. Trump "should be ashamed of himself" for using the memorial wall as a backdrop for his political grand-standing. Through a spokesman, Mr. Brennan said he was "deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump's despicable display of self-aggrandisement."

Later Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump's spokesman, repeated his boss's claims that the inaugural crowds were much larger than they actually were. At the new administration's first White House media briefing, Mr. Spicer spent nearly all of his five-and-a-half-minute statement berating reporters.

"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe," he said.

Mr. Spicer accused the media of deliberately downplaying the size of the crowd to embarrass the President.

"These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong," he said, adding later: "The President is committed to unifying our country … this kind of dishonesty in the media, the challenging – that bringing about our nation together is making it more difficult."

Mr. Spicer, who read from a prepared text and occasionally seemed on the verge of shouting, also appeared concerned about early reports that the Women's March on Washington had also surpassed Mr. Trump's inauguration in size.

"No one had numbers [for the inauguration] because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out. By the way, this applies to any attempts to try to count the number of protestors today in the same fashion," he said.

The following morning, Ms. Conway appeared on NBC's Meet the Press in what devolved into a heated exchange with host Chuck Todd.

At first, Ms. Conway appeared to be trying to downplay Mr. Trump's comments.

"I don't think, ultimately, presidents are judged by crowd sizes at their inaugurations. I think they're judged by their accomplishments," she said.

But when pressed on why Mr. Trump had Mr. Spicer "utter a provable falsehood," Ms. Conway told Mr. Todd that if he kept "referring to our press secretary in those types of terms, we're going to have to rethink our relationship here."

"Don't be so overly dramatic about it," Ms. Conway said. "You're saying it's a falsehood, and they're saying, Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts."

"Alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods," Mr. Todd shot back.

There was, however, at least one sign that Mr. Trump may have understood the need for a more presidential tone. Shortly after laying into the Women's March, he tweeted: "Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views."